I have a number of younger girlfriends. One of my closest younger friends is my friend, fellow blogger, personal trainer and mentor, Jessica. The first time I met Jessica was at InsideOut Gym. I had gotten to a point where I was really frustrated with my lack of motivation to stick to my exercise plans and eating right. I had joined the gym and didn’t go for 10 months. So, every month, $48 was being deducted from my checking account for no reason. I tried to quit. But, things kept getting in the way. Finally, I realized that quitting was probably not the best option. I should probably try to invest myself in a different way.
I was working out in the weight room, and she was working the desk that day, I think. I asked her about personal training, what it cost, and what packages they sold. She gave me the info and asked me about my fitness goals. I told her that I was a runner, but that I really just needed to get serious about working out again. She said she really wanted to work with me but that I should call the manager and talk to them. They would decide who was the best fit for my needs. She may tell everybody that she’d like to work with them, but, because I felt really flattered that she said that, I told them I would really like to work with her if they thought it was a good fit. She ended up becoming my trainer, and we worked out at 5:45 AM on Mondays until my package was used up.
During that time, she taught me more than what to do for strengthening. She taught me to be gentle with myself about exercise and to listen to my body. She also taught me to be consistent and push myself even when I don’t really feel like it. We talked a lot during that time, and one day she told me that I had inspired her to get up 30 minutes early so she wouldn’t be rushing around when she got to the gym. She taught me that I had something to teach even a young whipper-snapper like her. We talked about online dating, and she supported me through the first initial traumas of that. She taught me that I could have a lot in common with a woman 25 years younger. She continued to seek out a friendship with me afterwards. She’s my coach now, but I know that I also coach her in some areas. Her insistence that I should blog led me to writing. I will be forever grateful for that. I didn’t even know I had a passion for writing. If she hadn’t been in my life, I don’t know if I would have ever found it.
One of the other really impactful friendships I have with a much younger woman is the one I have with my stepdaughter, Michelle (she’s actually an ex-stepdaughter), but I call her that because it’s more than just a friendship. There is a history there. She probably doesn’t even know that she taught me a great deal. I was her stepmother from the time she was 13 until she was about 19. These were the years I struggled with in my youth. I had such a lack of confidence, and I was so scared. I made bad decisions, and I suffered a lot of consequences. By watching her at this age, I learned that I was a child. I didn’t make those decisions because I was bad – as I always thought – I made them because I needed help. I realized while watching her how young I was at that time, and how much compassion I really needed to give to my younger self for the way I was.
Michelle also taught me a lot about boundaries. She had to navigate the shambles of divorce. I can’t imagine that it was easy. I remember one day my ex told her that she needed to tell her Mother something. She looked at him…as innocent and sweet as she was…and said, “That is between you and Mom. Don’t put me in the middle.” From the mouths of babes that wisdom came forth. I was stunned, and he respected it. She would push back on me and on him when we were in the wrong or crossing her boundaries. And, she never did it disrespectfully. She was always in the right when she did it, and she taught me that no matter how young or sweet you are, you can stand up for yourself EVEN to people in authority. Of course, there were times that she acted like a teenager, and she had to adhere to our expectations. She definitely still acted like a teenager at those times. I remember one day we were talking to her about her grades, and she was laying her head on the table and moaning, “I doooooon’t waaaaanna taaaaaaalk about this.” And I learned that even when I’m not strong in one area, I can be strong in another.
I really learn a lot from my younger friends. Younger women can learn from me about things I’ve experienced. But, I can learn from them about the things that I haven’t experienced, about the things I haven’t tried. They also have an innocence where they are not jaded by past failings, and, sometimes I do need to loosen up. A lot of my walls are put up to protect me from things that have already happened. Those need to come down. And, Michelle and Jessica are great role models in showing me how to do that. The younger generation is different, and they think differently. They put baby boomers to shame with their work/life balance and knowledge of technology. We all complain about how the young people of today won’t step up to the plate. But, who are we to judge? How do we know we did it right? How do we know there is a right? I want to stay open to what they can teach me. I’ve been pretty impressed so far.